I’ll never forget that day. 

Out looking for wildlife in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley, my colleagues and I came across a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs squaring off with a family of wolves over a bison carcass.

We watched for hours. The wolves would feed, then the bears came in. If the wolves were aggressive, the bears retreated. Then the wolves would withdraw, leaving the bears to feast.

Looking around, there were easily more than 100 people watching. Most appeared to be international visitors who’d come to see some of the world’s most famous wildlife – Yellowstone’s grizzlies. 

But the bears we saw that day are now in grave danger. They may soon be in the crosshairs of trophy hunters the second they cross park boundaries.

The Trump administration stripped Yellowstone’s grizzlies of Endangered Species Act protections last year, paving the way for state-sponsored trophy hunting. 

Now, Wyoming plans to declare open season on these beloved bears for the first time in 40 years.

Under a proposal from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, trophy hunters could kill 24 grizzlies, including 14 females. In some areas of Wyoming, baiting would even be allowed.

This reckless proposal – which state officials could approve on May 23 – ignores the population declines and food challenges facing Yellowstone’s bears and the important role they play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. 

Because of the grizzly’s slow reproductive rate, females take 10 years to replace themselves in the population. Killing just one female could impact the local grizzly population for the next decade; killing 14 could be devastating.

Grizzlies in the lower 48 states occupy less than 4 percent of their historic range. Yellowstone’s bears remain isolated from other grizzlies in Glacier National Park and northern Idaho. A trophy hunt could further decrease the likelihood of these bears connecting with other populations, threatening their genetic health.

Since 2015, the grizzly population has declined and mortality rates have been on the rise. Traditional foods like whitebark pine cones and Yellowstone cutthroat trout have diminished as a result of climate change, disease and invasive species, pushing bears to a more meat-based diet. This could lead to increased conflicts with livestock or hunters – and more dead bears.

Trophy hunting would be incredibly destructive for a bear population already struggling to deal with a changing environment.

Thankfully, not all states are rushing ahead with hunting.

In February, Montana announced it would not allow grizzly hunting this year. Wyoming should do the same and prove it can responsibly manage these bears. 

Yellowstone’s amazing grizzlies are loved around the world. They are crucial to the web of life and to Wyoming’s economy by helping to drive tourism. These majestic animals deserve a chance to survive – not to be recklessly hunted as trophies.

 

(Andrea Santarsiere defends endangered wildlife as a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. She lives in Victor, Idaho.)

(30) comments

Trex

To add to my previous comment , to all you misinformed anti-hunters if you knew the facts any species hunted in modern history thrives.

Glenn Graham

When they go on the endangered species list they do, yes. Wyoming constantly proves it cant be trusted to manage its wildlife.

Glenn Graham

Absolutely. As long as the Endangered Species Act is there to protect them when you've killed too many for your "sport".

TonyH

The number 700 has always been a myth the Game and Fish have never had an accurate count on the bears. Back in the early ninety's I personally talked with one of the leading bear biologists of that time whom died latter that year in a plane crash. At that time the number was around 430. He told me that year they had collared or tagged over 400 bears that year alone in addition to the 430 already on the books. He also said that the bears are so elusive that it was impossible to get an accurate count on them. So when i asked him how many bears are really out there his response was if I told you, you probably wouldn't go into the woods. That being said I personally don't have a desire to hunt them but hunting is a viable way to manage them. This article is totally bias and doesn't represent what the Game and Fish is doing. No one wants to hunt them to extinction just manage them. So to all of the comments about not coming to Wyoming because of this issue please do stay away. Side note: Staying away from this beautiful state is robbing yourself of an opportunity to see what truly living a simple life is all about.

Nandia

I strongly oppose Wyoming’s support of a Grizzly Trophy Hunt this fall. Millions of people both here and abroad come to Wyoming for the privilege of seeing these beloved Ambassadors of Yellowstone. Grizzly Bears are essential to a healthy ecosystem and are one of Wyoming's greatest assets. We must protect them for future generations. An ill advised Trophy Hunt will threaten a still vulnerable Grizzly population and cast a terrible pall upon Wyoming. Governor Mead, should do right by America’s iconic Grizzlies as well as the overwhelming majority of the voters who oppose such a Hunt, and intervene to stop the planned slaughter of 24 Wyoming Grizzlies. Until such time, my family and I will boycott Wyoming and will convince our friends to do the same.

Trex

This complete string of comments are against all hunting, and it is obvious that they have not a clue as to how game and fish plan to do the hunt. If stopped by courts maybe all back country hunters and hikers will take them out on sight then the problem will be solved.

Gunrunner Auctions

No animal on the face of the Earth has been more studied that the American Grizzly. So if you doubt the management techniques, your "speculation" flies in the face of studies by the nation's top biologists. Hunting is part of that management. Grizzly are grossly over-populated and have ranged over 50 miles outside the Park. If you live in their range as I do, we have daily sightings and they trouble they cause is immense - as in human maulings and death, stock killing, etc. I would not think of walking my land without a heavy rifle. If you read any Game & Fish newsletter or Wyoming newspaper, you will see that the wildlife officials spend MILLIONS of dollars constantly capturing grizzlies and transferring them to "another area", killing them after "three strikes" and paying off landowners for the damage. Truly out of hand in all respects. The Wyoming Statutes define a grizzly as a trophy game animal and allow them to be hunted. It's time. I hope to draw an early tag. Get ready to see them hunted.

Mgiesler

The bear population is NOT diverse, nor numerous enough to absorb killing of prime specimens, in addition to the habitat loss and fragmentation that it already faces. Plus, it’s a huge black eye for the state

Sully53

I love seeing bears as much as the next person. But the population needs to be managed. People on this thread seem to think bears will hunted in the park, That is not at all true. If the grizzlies had stay in the park there would never even be a discussion about hunting them. I live 80 miles from the closest entrance to Yellowstone Park. I see grizzlies a lot in my area. The cattle rancher next to me has bear killed livestock every year. He didn't always have that problem Only when the bear population in the park expanded and a lot have moved out of the park. I know another person that lives close by that had his face torn off in a bear attack.

Now let me talk about "trophy" hunting. What is that? I hunt deer, antelope and elk. I want to shoot a "trophy". I go fishing. I want to catch a trophy Rainbow? Why is it that the word "trophy" applies to bear, lions and elephants and not everything hunted or fished for. The word is just a big talking point for the bunny huggers.

TravisDay

We know this grizzly hunt is a bad idea ecologically and economically. So, what can be said in favor of it? I thought surely someone in Cody would at least try to make a sensible case for it.

C Maley

It's common knowledge that grizzlies are struggling to survive given their ever decreasing roaming territories, the numbers that are killed due to trophy hunting and their decreasing genetic pool. If Yellowstone allows hunting you will never get my tourist dollars. I want a healthy grizzly population all over north america! Leave the bears ALONE! People want to see live, wild bears, there's far more money in wildlife tourism and letting the bears live is the humane thing to do!

hakeem454

If you're going to comment, at least get your facts straight. They won't be hunted in Yellowstone, there is no hunting, of any animals, allowed in Yellowstone. People like you have absolutely no clue why we need hunting to manage wildlife.

(Edited by staff.)

Glenn Graham

Less than 700 grizzly bears in the 20,000 square miles of Yellowstone. 1 bear every 30 square miles. Obviously not overpopulated. There is no reason to kill any bears. With the continuing threat to the food sources they need to go back on the endangered species list. 

(Edited by staff.)

Jules447

I completely disagree with any hunting of grizzlies. I have yet to see any trophy hunter give a valid reason to do such. Tourism generates billions of dollars each year. A huge majority of these visitors visit in hopes of getting a glimpse of a grizzly bear in its natural range. According to the NPS website, there is no way hunting could even come close in generating these kinds of figures by allowing any hunt!

The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 330.9 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9 billion.Apr 21, 2017
Tourism to Yellowstone National Park Creates $680.3 Million in ...

StaggeringD

Grizzlies have been protected for 40 years. Thinking that hunting 24 will teach them to fear humans is ridiculous Jasper. Also, do you think the five bears that are the human carcass think, “hey, this human is sure tasty! Let’s get more!!” They don’t. Dead meat is just that, dead meat. It matters not what kind it is. Much like that two day old pizza in your fridge. To be clear the Humane Society scientist who have studied species health has determined it takes 6K in a grizzly population to be considered healthy. The 700 in the cross hairs here are at extreme risk. Just because a bunch of people like to live in the mountains, these amazing creatures are considered a threat. If anyone wants to live in or wonder the wild lands you take the risks that come with that. The days of man acting like a “GOD” of the earth and all it’s creatures needs to end. Thanks for the article!

(Edited by staff.)

Bearlady

Grizzly bears have the lowest reproduction rate of any North American mammal. It has taken 40 years to bring the population from 150 to about 700 bears even with protection. Over the past several years over 50 of them have been killed or otherwise removed from the Greater Yellowstone region each year. Their numbers are going down due to human interaction and changes in their food sources. They still need Federal protection and certainly should not be hunted. When the protection was removed, the three states were given the responsibility of managing the grizzly bear population. Managing them does not mean to start a hunt as soon as they were delisted. To do so is only giving in to hunters who want a trophy on their wall or a bear rug on their floor. These bears belong to all of us, not to a few hunters. Allowing hunting, especially in the numbers you are proposing could drive the numbers so low that it will takes decades for them to recover IF they ever do. That is not managing them responsibly. The three states have a responsibility to the American people to safeguard the future of the grizzly bears. Right now, Montana is the only state that is taking that responsibility seriously and I applaud them for that. Allowing 24 grizzly bears to be killed in Wyoming as trophies is not living up to the responsibility you've been given. Please reconsider the impact of this decision and do not allow hunting of the grizzly bears.

heatherly

I come to Yellowstone often in hopes of viewing grizzliy bears. I will not be spending my money in the state any longer. There is no room for trophy hunting. This is not what the people want.

Horsewolf

Yellowstone’s amazing grizzlies are loved around the world. They are crucial to the web of life and to Wyoming’s economy by helping to drive tourism. These majestic animals deserve a chance to survive – not to be recklessly hunted as trophies.

Andy S

Hi Jasper. I am wondering how a dead bear learns to fear humans. Grizzlies don't travel in packs like elk or deer, so how is killing bears going to make grizzlies more fearful from humans?

BearAware2

Killing should never be the first response. Wyoming needs to use common sense, promote bear aware/encounter education, and change their mindset. As Americans we should be more advanced in our conservation efforts. Trophy hunting is an embarrassment. Get with the science and math, Wyoming!

JAMalone

The Yellowstone bear population is still vulnerable. If the surrounding states are indeed committed to restoring and maintaining a healthy, viable grizzly population they need to listen to independent biologists . But they are much more interested in facilitating the lust for killing of Ryan Zinke and the SCI. The low, low quotas - absurdly one male for Idaho - only serve to suggest that some in government at least know how wrong this is. Montana no doubt is only on a temporary hold. But one grizzly shot for " sport" is one too many. Public attitudes are changing, and well informed. The individual lives of these magnificent other beings do matter. And there is growing and organized opposition to trophy hunting among international ecotourists. We are being heard.

brunhilda

no one cares more for the bears than me, but will get more traction if we begin to publicize the important, unique, and ecological functions the great bears provide

stevef880

Grizzlies are just beginning to recover, they have a right to exist. They are magnificent animals that not many places have. The vast majority of public opinion is opposed to grizzly bear hunts, since grizzlies are an iconic animal of Yellowstone Park and surrounding area. A live grizzly is worth far more in tourist dollars (revenue for Wyoming economy including the State). I realize some of the increased danger to hunters in grizzly country but that is a risk one should take just like a hiker in grizzly country (which I have done). Generations ago hunters in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and elsewhere had to deal with possible encounters with grizzlies. Hunting and hiking cannot be made totally safe, a grizzly encounter is just one of the risks, but much less risky than driving to those areas.

grizzlygirl

Thank you for this thoughtful op-ed. Like many tourists, I come regularly to Yellowstone, drawn by the wildlife - especially the charismatic grizzly bear. Wyoming's reckless trophy hunting plan will decrease the population go Yellowstone grizzly bears and will certainly make it more difficult for tourists to see grizzlies - a double whammy. What in the world is the Game and Fish Commission thinking!? They should follow Montana's more thoughtful, careful lead.

Jasper

Well to begin with the Grizzly's are so numerous and attacks are increasing every year in the back country. Myself and 3 other hunters were Charged by Sow and yearlings a couple of years ago by Turpin Meadows and with being said. The Grizzly's have no fear of humans and hunting is a tool to put fear back in the bears so they are not killed because of Aggressive behavior. The Young Forest Service employee that was killed and cashed in Cub Creek behind Togotwee Lodge was fed on by 5 different bears in one cache. No one is safe in the backcountry. For Christ sakes they won't be hunted in Teton or Yellowstone parks.

(Edited by staff.)

Love Bears

Can you please explain to me how Hunting is an effective tool to control grizzly attacks ?
Grizzlies are solitary animals so when you have shot a Grizzly there is no way a dead grizzly can pass any comments on And can I ask if you fear for your life as you say why do you not move ? Surely you can not live in fear of being killed and you obviously can not live with the wildlife so the solution seems move states But then again I guess people who are eager to slaughter a grizzly will say almost anything to get a rug or full mount that can be sold for thousands of dollars

Nononsense

Funny how hunters love to claim they're attacked by grizzlies and have packs of predators circling them beneath their stands, but never a shred of evidence. We know you keep your cameras ready for your selfies with the deer and elk you kill, but never, ever to prove your claims about all these vicious, rabid predators. Even if you were, in fact, charged by a grizz, can you blame her? She's trying to protect her family from someone who is literally trying to kill them. Do you want her to just walk up to you and ask politely to be put to death?

(Edited by staff.)

StaggeringD

If you go in the backcountry you take the risks that come with the territory. Humans should have no more rights that any other living creature. But killing to create fear won’t work, these aren’t deer.

(Edited by staff.)

Justine

Sounds like you and your friends were not hurt by that sow. The employee you reference was not a Forest Service employee, but a contract hire out of UT. He refused to carry bear spray, said he didn't need it. He was a power hiker who was in a highly tight wooded area, without bear spray, and almost ran into a bear on a carcass in the fall. Yes, this was tragic, but it was not a common occurrence as you suggest. I live in a drop off valley for bears. I avoid hiking in the fall when hunters leave gut piles. Bears appear to be minders of their own business, and their natural instinct is to run away from humans. Of course, dead bears won't do much to teach other bears, since bears don't travel in packs. You might consider hunting in the Big Horns next time and leave grizzlies with the little habitat they have left to live in.

Justine

Wyoming Game and Fish appears to be galloping as fast as possible towards a trophy hunt. And they are intent on killing bears outside the DMA. After a slow increase in bear population over 45 years, now we are rushing to kill them? Unconscionable! Grizzlies are a magnificent animal, occupying less than 2% of their former range. We can live with them. I support delisting but do not support a hunt. The two do not need to be coupled together.

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